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Women gaze behaviour in assessing female bodies: the effects of clothing, body size, own body composition and body satisfaction

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Abstract

Often with minimally clothed figures depicting extreme body sizes, previous studies have shown women tend to gaze at evolutionary determinants of attractiveness when viewing female bodies, possibly for self-evaluation purposes, and their gaze distribution is modulated by own body dissatisfaction level. To explore to what extent women’s body-viewing gaze behaviour is affected by clothing type, dress size, subjective measurements of regional body satisfaction and objective measurements of own body composition (e.g., chest size, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio), in this self-paced body attractiveness and body size judgement experiment, we compared healthy, young women’s gaze distributions when viewing female bodies in tight and loose clothing of different dress sizes. In contrast to tight clothing, loose clothing biased gaze away from the waist-hip to the leg region, and subsequently led to enhanced body attractiveness ratings and body size underestimation for larger female bodies, indicating the important role of clothing in mediating women’s body perception. When viewing preferred female bodies, women’s higher satisfaction of a specific body region was associated with an increased gaze towards neighbouring body areas, implying satisfaction might reduce the need for comparison of confident body parts; furthermore undesirable body composition measurements were correlated with a gaze avoidance process if the construct was less changeable (i.e. chest size) but a gaze comparison process if the region was more changeable (i.e. body mass index, dress size). Clearly, own body satisfaction and body composition measurements had an evident impact on women’s body-viewing gaze allocation, possibly through different cognitive processes.

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Correspondence to Kun Guo.

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Cundall, A., Guo, K. Women gaze behaviour in assessing female bodies: the effects of clothing, body size, own body composition and body satisfaction. Psychological Research 81, 1–12 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-015-0726-1

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